"For these next five weeks, the epicenter of the 'Gossip Girl' universe will be on the CW's broadcast television airwaves," said Dawn Ostroff, president-entertainment of the network, which is a joint venture of CBS Corp. and Time Warner.
View it or lose it
The maneuver points to an interesting dynamic: The adventures of Serena, Blair and Dan may goose buzz among the hip 18-to-34 set, but if they don't watch the show on the TV network that pays for it, the CW could find it challenging to keep it on the air.
Indeed, other networks have found it difficult to keep low-rated shows alive, even if the programs notch fans in other venues. After keeping the sci-fi drama "Jericho" for another season due to fan protest, CBS decided to yank the drama. Last year, CBS executives admonished fans that no matter how much they enjoyed the program online and via DVR playback, low ratings could not be tolerated.
"The show has been off the air for a long time due to the writers strike. It's also at a new time slot," said CW spokesman Paul McGuire. "It is a show we're very proud of and feel can be a signature show for the network, but we need to grow the ratings, and this is something that we're going to try and experiment with and see if we can help."
Ratings for the original episodes of "Gossip Girl" slipped since the series debuted Sept. 19, according to Nielsen. The premiere episode notched about 3.5 million live or same-day viewers. But the last original episode only secured about 2.3 million, and the program's audience dipped as low as around 1.8 million on Dec. 19.
Related content still on web
The CW said it would continue to offer exclusive online content to "GG" fans at its website, cwtv.com. Among the features that will be made available are interviews with Josh Schwartz, the program's executive producer; two-minute trailer recaps; and contests and prizes. The first 12 episodes in the series will remain available for streaming and will also be available on iTunes.
The first new episode of "Gossip Girl" airs April 21. The CW has ratcheted up buzz for the program by running a series of ribald promos and ads featuring the show's young stars in passionate moments while the phrase "OMFG," which indicate shock in the lingo of avid text-messagers, is superimposed over the scenes. After getting fans all hot and bothered, CW's non-streaming decision could send some looking for a cold shower.